Watch the video of Matthew Owen’s talk at TEDxExeter 2016.
Scroll down the page for the Live blogs of the talks.
Videos about Development
Unfortunately we couldn’t publish the video of Chris’ talk at TEDxExeter 2012. You can read the live blog instead.
Live blogs about Development
The first session is on Open Communities.
Matthew is reminding us of the main policies which have reduced carbon emissions: solar, hydropower, reducing industrial gas emission, and number one is protecting rainforest.
Every rainforest talk has a tree frog image, which he has got out of the way early. Instead he has zoomed into a small village called Cuti Vireni in the Amazonian rainforest. It used to be 300km from chainsaws, then 5km, then it was offered $250 for 40 odd cedar trees. Not good value, but ready cash if they need to get food or carry a child to get medical care. In other words, poverty is the issue, and the barriers to loggers’ entry are low.
Piecemeal degradation is the biggest threat to rainforest now, and no longer clear cutting. We care more now where our beef, soya and palm oil comes from… and the US makes its own ethanol. But we still lose 260,000 acres every day, or the equivalent number of trees, and degradation is four times worse than clear-cutting.
Illegal loggers always find a way of circumventing regulations, e.g. by shipping illegal trunks back to their logging concession to pretend they are legal, and even shipping and replanting stumps. There is also a lot of hidden coca farming, the raw material for cocaine, often by the same people.
Logging is not a commodity trade. It’s negotiated tree by tree, on the ground, locally. This is what lies behind the Cool Earth model – offering an alternative to selling trees for short-term cash.
Cuti Vireni looked for advice, and were introduced to Cool Earth. Cool Earth cobbled together $8000 as payment to the village to keep the trees in the ground – half up front, half in a year. They asked the village to form an association, and tell neighbours about it a year. The villagers invested in mosquito nets, and importantly a cacao drier, offering an alternative cash crop. In a year, instead of a meeting with neighbours, the village had a sport tournament, involving 14 other teams. It was a great success, and nine other villages then joined the project. As a result, local canopy loss has been only 0.5% instead of 29% more widely. 150,000 acres are under the communities’ control, but 1.5m has been shielded from loggers.
The best bit is how little Cool Earth needs to do. The villagers make the decisions and do the work. So Cool Earth can work anywhere, and there are now over 1m acres shielding 10m acres, and it is continuing to grow. David Attenborough says they are not just saving the rainforest, but saving the world, and we are all benefitting.
[Please note that in these live blog posts I aim to report what the speakers present. I may well miss bits, but that is because I can’t keep up rather than anything nefarious. I try not to let my personal views shape the argument or intrude, except for the occasional light interjection in square brackets.]
Our first session is about international themes, and our first speaker is Vinay Nair from Acumen.
Five years ago, he found himself in remote NW Mozambique, sitting down and buzzing about budgeting and planning for a social enterprise selling jam, run by women who were HIV positive. They were managing to generate an income, and become active agents in their own futures. One was asked by the Red Cross to set up similar enterprises across the country.
Vinay had a sense that the work was about dignity not dependence, choice not charity. But he’s not a good Samaritan, he’s a former investment banker – his joke! And yet, that experience helped him in the position he is now in, and he wants to explore those interconnections and interdependencies.
A few years ago, he visited Robben Island in South Africa, where he tried to get inside the head of Nelson Mandela. On the way home, he bumped into Gordon Brown at the airport, thanked him for his work on debt relief, and was then surprised when they had a conversation about economics and finance as vehicles for reducing poverty and improving social justice.
Before the financial crisis, Vinay took a sabbatical and spent some time in India. He met Muhammad Yunus, the pioneer in microfinance. He thought initially that microfinance was a silver bullet, but realised that often the goals of social justice had got lost in the push for a financial return.
So he left the world of microfinance and ended up in Mozambique and then the Clinton Foundation, before studying for a masters at LSE. He got involved in Acumen, and began to work with its founder Jacqueline Novogratz.
Acumen’s model is to take donations, bypass governments and conventional finance, and invest ‘patient capital’ in social enterprises. The returns can then be recycled again and again. It also has a strong focus on ‘how’ it makes decisions, in a difficult and messy area of work. Listening and humility are core, but there is also a need for leadership, audaciousness and accountability.
Vinay found himself back in India, in the rice belt, working with a renewable energy company which was burning rice husks to generate electricity for sale at £1 per month. Because it wasn’t free, people demanded customer service etc – dignity not dependence. There were also improved health outcomes, through not inhaling kerosene fumes, and improved education, through better lighting – not just the financial bottom line.
He’s now leaving Acumen to set up a new initiative in the UK, to tackle poverty and inequality here. There is a need to understand what and how investment can support innovative social enterprise and charities. There’s a lot that can be learnt from Acumen and other organisations, because of the interconnections. As they say in Bantu South Africa: Ubuntu, I am because you are.
Curator of TED and Jeanie’s brother, starting with a big hug – aaaah! He’s left the red spot and is shaking the hands of the front row. Staple-guns at the ready! But phew, he’s back on the spot.
He’s changed his talk from the City 2.0, and instead is looking at what he’s learnt from past TED talks about sustainability: the world in seven lenses. He firmly believes there is cause for optimism, so even though he starts with the message “we’re in trouble”…
Lens 1. The long view says that things have been getting better. Trade brought connections and drove innovation. In the past we had to work for 6 hours to afford one tallow candle. Now we work for 1 second for electric lighting. Despite what we see of the evidence, we are living in the most peaceful time in human existence. Snippet of Hans Rosling’s talk on life expectancy and family sizes.
Lens 2. Our brains are bugged, so we don’t recognise happiness and well-being. If we recognise it, we can navigate around it. Cartoon: “everything was better back when everything was worse.” Our genes are wired to want more. We need to take a moment to smell the roses.
Lens 3. Our media are fundamentally flawed, in the way they appeal to our lizard brains. We respond to drama and bad news for other people, We’re looking at shorter and shorter time periods, so we see the peaks and miss long-term trends. The actual News of the actual World should be “Global Health Shock: 1700 children saved from horrifying death”.
Lens 4. “Growth” does not have to mean “more”. Today we’ve heard about numerous ways of re-imagining the economy. Better experiences don’t have to mean more stuff, and the knowledge economy can help drive this.
Lens 5. Urbanization is humanity’s golden hope. TED speakers have changed Chris’ view of cities. The proximity of people, even in slums, drives innovation to make change. The carbon footprint per person is much lower within cities. The movement to the cities has released some pressure on the countryside. City mayors (often) can do what national governments can’t, because they can work within local communities.
Lens 5. Sustainability comes from knowledge, not just nature. Knowledge has given us a lot of tools, and choices that make our lives joyful.
Lens 6. Problems are inevitable. Problems are soluble. Stewart Brand: “We are as gods, and have to get good at it”, from a position of humility not arrogance.
Lens 7. People are not hungry mouths, but creative minds, not a burden, but an asset. Half the world’s population – girls and women – hasn’t had the possibility of reaching their potential, but things are changing.
In our connected world, knowledge can spread and humanity can get wiser.